Toilet training your puppy might seem daunting, but don’t worry! Expert dog trainer Philippa Short is here to help make it a positive bonding experience for you and your pup. Let’s find out how to toilet train your puppy using Philippa’s positive reinforcement techniques.
First things first, how do you tell when your puppy needs to relieve themselves?
At eight weeks old, your puppy has a tiny bladder and doesn’t understand its signals. This means you’ll have no warning that they need to go.
So you’ll want to create a regular toileting routine where you carry them to your chosen toilet spot:
As your puppy gets older, their bladder gets bigger and their muscles get stronger, giving them more control. At this point, you’ll have some telltale ‘I need to go’ signs like:
Before you start toilet training, decide on your goal. Remember we mentioned a ‘toilet area’ earlier? Where you want or need your pup to go to the toilet will depend on your individual needs.
For example, you may not have your own outdoor space, so your focus will be on indoor toilet training. Or you might have young children who play in the garden and want your pup to go to the toilet in a specific area.
This could be:
If you want your puppy to only use one specific toileting area, you need to teach this consistently to them. Letting them go in a different spot (even just once) can scupper this dedicated area.
So you’ll need to:
It can take up to six months for them to form a strong habit of going to the same place, so patience is key. Eventually, they’ll start pulling you straight to their spot. This is when you can start trusting them to take themselves to the toilet.
Once you’ve decided on your puppy’s toilet area, it’s time to choose and condition their toilet cue words.
Notice we said verbal praise there, not treat? That’s because:
Once you’ve done plenty of cue conditioning, you can start saying it slightly before the behaviour happens. This turns the cue into a prompt.
Want your pup’s toilet area to be outside? This step is for you – teaching them how to let you know when they need to be let out.
One option is to hang a bell from the door handle and teach them to tap or nudge it with their paw. This is immediately rewarded with a treat and the door being opened.
The upside is your puppy learns that moving the bell gets the door open. It’s also very straightforward to teach. But the downside? Your puppy could think that the purpose of the bell is to get a treat
So instead of using a bell, try teaching your pup the ‘shall we go toilet’ cue.
How do you handle puppy toilet training if you live in a flat or don’t have a garden? Or perhaps you have a disability that stops you from getting to the door quickly?
You can toilet train your puppy indoors using a litter tray:
Young puppies won’t be able to hold their bladder from bedtime until morning. To toilet train a puppy during the night:
For the first few weeks, you may need to take them to the toilet every two to three hours. As time goes on, you’ll notice they’re still asleep when you go to them and will only go for a small wee. This is when you can start stretching out the time between their nightly toileting.
If you don’t want to get up at night, your puppy will need somewhere to go toilet. This means putting down puppy pads or a litter tray, else they’ll have an accident.
How long it takes to toilet train depends on different things:
Expecting your puppy to be toilet trained in five or seven days is unrealistic and puts unwanted stress and pressure on them.
Many puppies are toilet-trained from four months onwards but this does vary based on their training and breed.
Being fully toilet trained doesn’t mean your puppy can just hold their bladder overnight. You should also be confident that they can be trusted to:
Sometimes, your toilet-trained puppy might start to have accidents again in the house. There’s a couple of reasons why this might happen:
Your pup may also have lost bladder control because of a medical problem. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in puppies, so always speak to your vet if you think your puppy isn’t well. Petsure customers have 24/7 access to video appointments with a FirstVet vet.
Signs that your older pup might have a medical problem include:
Being a responsible puppy parent means making sure you’re there for them, especially during the first few weeks. Remember, they’re in a new home and away from their siblings. They need you there to help them settle in and begin some basic training.
This could mean taking some time off work to set up their routine and start their toilet training. If you’re not at home, you’ll need someone who can look after your dog or come over every hour.
As we mentioned earlier, eight-week old puppies can only hold their wee for a couple of hours at night time. As they grow and their bladders get bigger and stronger, they can hold their wee in for longer before needing to go out.
When puppies are very young, they will try and hold in their scent as much as possible. They feel vulnerable and don’t want to announce their arrival to the outside world.
So it’s perfectly normal if your puppy takes a while to want to toilet in new places, even if they’re comfortable doing it at home. The more anxious or worried personality types will take longer to go toilet outside the home.
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